Pawlenty could act to fill vacant Senate seat

Storing ballots
Ballots that have been sorted and counted are packaged in boxes, sealed with signed labels, and brought to a separate storage location.
Caroline Yang for MPR

The recount of the Minnesota's U.S. Senate race is set to resume tomorrow, but the outcome remains uncertain.

Staff at the secretary of state's office spent the weekend going through challenged ballots, and about 1600 absentee votes have yet to be considered.

Minnesota's Senate race could last into the new year, which would leave Minnesota with a vacant Senate seat when the new Congress convenes Jan. 6.

By law, Gov. Tim Pawlenty could appoint someone to fill that seat, but Washington University professor Steven Smith said the Senate might not go along with that.

"They could refuse to seat a Senator. They could seat that person as a temporary seat holder, they're free to do that, and then of course ultimately the loser in the Coleman-Franken contest might appeal to the senate to investigate the Minnesota case and over turn the initial outcome in Minnesota," he said.

Smith added that the governor would likely fill the seat with a fellow Republican.

"One would guess that he might appoint a Republican, and he might even appoint Norm Coleman to fill it, and Democrats in the Senate might think that's unfair, that the race, the election in Minnesota hasn't been determined yet, but could be determined very quickly and it really makes no sense to put someone in office just for a few days," he said.

Democrat Al Franken now leads Republican Norm Coleman by 262 votes in the unfinished recount.

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